If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that mental health is both a vital part of our overall well-being and more fragile than previously understood. And yet in spite of this, too few people give due consideration to their mental health, let alone take steps to find and maintain peace of mind.
Sesh is addressing this ongoing issue by making group support sessions accessible and affordable using a mobile app with a subscription plan. I had the opportunity to speak to the San Francisco-based app’s cofounders, CEO Vittoria Bergeron and COO Alyssa Musket, about their mission, approach, and the challenges of tackling mental health given the stigma and exclusion that have long been inherent in the field.
Mary Juetten: When did you start?
Vittoria Bergeron: I started Sesh in 2019 after experiencing how incredible group support was for myself. Years prior to starting Sesh, I was in inpatient treatment for an eating disorder where I discovered the transformative power of group support. Therapist-led groups can be extremely expensive and I wanted to give people access to group support outside of treatment centers without having to rely on insurance companies or bear the burden of exorbitant costs.
I had met Alyssa through a friend in early 2020, right before lockdown started. We shared a passion for solving the same problem, and soon after brought her on as a cofounder.
Alyssa Musket: We initially didn’t realize how prescient a digital group therapy app would be when we first developed it, but in the coming months we realized that it would be a necessity. We worked remotely for nine months having only spoken on the phone or via Zoom. It helped us trust each other, divide and conquer, and become excellent communicators.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Bergeron: While there remains a stigma surrounding mental and emotional health, the services are unaffordable for a majority of Americans. The average price of a therapy session is around $150 per hour.
We created Sesh as an affordable resource for individuals to harness the benefits of professionally led group support outside of difficult-to-find and difficult-to-pay-for walls of formal treatment. At $60/month each member is able to access unlimited peer group support sessions and resources that may otherwise be unaffordable or unattainable — especially with so many rural areas known as “mental health access deserts,” Sesh is providing peer group support sessions led by therapists to people who wouldn’t normally have access.
Sesh provides safe and accessible spaces for those who want to take their mental and emotional health further, find like-minded people in similar situations, learn skill sets and coping mechanisms, or for those who are simply interested in enhancing their mood. We’re constantly adding new peer support group sessions for a variety of topics such as parenting, addressing anxiety, building self-esteem, and embracing body positivity. The different themes allow for diversity and inclusion as well as engagement in areas where members seek support and wish to explore other areas in order to strengthen and grow their mental and emotional health.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Musket: Individuals who use Sesh for support don’t have a specific, cookie-cutter “type” and that’s the point. We built our platform for those who were left out of the mental health conversation by offering inclusive session topics (for LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, Latinx, and many more) led by culturally competent therapists from these communities.
Our members are drawn to Sesh because it is a low-stakes, therapist-led platform to enhance your mental health. Sesh is used by those who are just beginning their mental health journey, for those who are supplementing their 1:1 therapy with a more affordable, community-based option – and for everyone in between.
Much of our growth has taken place organically through friend, community, and therapist referrals.
Juetten: How did past projects and experience help with this new project?
Bergeron: Battling a mental illness is not a single-player game. Being open and honest with others in my own recovery inspired me to extend formal support systems with Sesh.
Musket: Prior to Sesh, I was fortunate to work with DigDeep, a national nonprofit that is focused on bringing clean running water to the more than 2M+ Americans living without access. Through their regional affiliates they demonstrate the incredible power of community-led solutions to ignite change on a larger scale. The exposure to their work combined with our commitment to create accessibility within the mental health sector has had a large impact on the mission-driven development of Sesh.
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Bergeron: We are lucky to work with brilliant folks who are deeply passionate about lowering the mental health access barrier. At the moment, our Board is entirely female.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Bergeron: We recently closed a $3.5M seed round led by Polaris and Arch Ventures.
Juetten: Startups are an adventure — what’s your favorite startup story?
Bergeron: My favorite startup stories always start with an idea that seems crazy at first and then ultimately win with hard work and strong values. Ben & Jerry started selling ice cream out of an abandoned gas station. I love that.
Musket: I love startup success stories where the company sets out to do something that will add value to the world, not just another product. That doesn’t mean it can’t be an ice cream company. Ben & Jerry’s has used their platform to raise awareness for issues ranging from racial justice to climate change to LGBTQIA+ equality. I wish all people and companies in a position of power cared about creating a positive impact outside of themselves.
Juetten: How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
Bergeron: To me, success is measured by how many people you help. So, my favorite success stories always revolve around the solution provided and how it actually makes a difference in people’s lives.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Bergeron: If your mission is authentic, even the hardest days are gratifying.
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Bergeron: Sesh will be the global leader in human-led group support.
Thank you to Vittoria and Alyssa for sharing their stories with me on a critical topic for our world. Hopefully it presses home the lesson to take the time and effort to look after your mental well-being, and to not be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. #onwards.
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